Everyone wants to be green – whatever that truly means – and one of the many ways to be thrifty, conserve and smart is to use a barrel to capture rain. Here in California, water is somewhat of a hard commodity to acquire, so folks in these parts are looking at how to capture rainwater to use in gardens and keep their green areas, well, green.
To that end, have you ever thought about using a wine barrel as a rain barrel? The obvious advantages of rainwater include that’s it’s free, but also the fact is rainwater can actually help improve the health of your gardens, lawn and trees. Rainwater is naturally soft and devoid of minerals, chlorine and other chemicals found in water produced from treatment plants such as city water. And did you know that during a one-inch rain event, over half a gallon of water can fall on just one square foot of roof? Yes, you read that right, just one square foot!
So what are you waiting for? Wine barrels as rain barrels is not a novel idea as people have been doing this for centuries. However, now that water rates have skyrocketed along with the idea of using safer rainwater over that of city water – it has become more popular than ever. Plus, a wine barrel will hold 500 pounds of water – that’s a lot of natural pure rainwater. On a side note, keep in mind old oak wine barrels are being used for so many other reuses, that they are becoming harder and harder to find.
Q: When does it rain money? A: When there is “change” in the weather.
As far as how you can capture rain and use it as water for your gardens et al, there are several kits out there that you can do on your own. These do-it-yourself kits range in price from $20 all the way to well over $100. It all depends on how sophisticated you want to get and whether you can afford to make sure it’s self contained. Note that all these kits require you to cut into your drainage down spouts.
The lowest priced kit I found is made by Oatey called the Mystic Rainwater Collection System and the unit simply hooks to your downspout and a diverter hose goes into your barrel. You will have to figure out how to drill a hole in the top of the barrel and seal it if possible. These units usually don’t go for more than $40.
A more middle of the road kit that I personally thought was about right is Rain Reserve’s Complete Rain Barrel Diverter Kit. It’s a closed system and has a trick reservoir that will send water back to the downspout when the barrel is about to overflow – that way water doesn’t spill willy-nilly all over the place. A bit pricey, running up to $100, yet evaluated with other similar units, nothing compares to the quality.
The other way to go is shine the wine barrel and buy a all-in-one plastic barrel with the kit to go with it. They can be found for as much as $300 but I found one on Amazon for about $150. It isn’t as cool or natural looking, but is still does the job.
No gutters? No problem
Spray your roof with water – or watch the water running off the roof the next time it rains – note those points that are the heaviest. Another way is to look for where your roof comes down a makes a V – they call that a trough or roof valley – see the illustration above. An old fashion idea is to put a rope or chain on your roof on an angle and water will follow the rope – see where it comes off the roof and place your barrel there. With all these ideas, remove or cut the top of your barrel and place it where the heaviest drainage areas came off the roof.
By the way, there are kits that can add a second or even more barrels to your collection system.
One last add. There’s a company called RainSaucers and they sell a device that can be attached to the top of a barrel. To describe what they look like, imagine a dog shield collar – you know, those ridiculous things you put on your dog so they don’t gnaw on an injured area. Another description would be they look like a satellite dish. It widens the catch diameter immensely so you can place the barrel anywhere you want. See video below for more info on RainSaucers.
Now as far as another possible situation you could run into, some people might find they have issues with their old used wine barrel leaking. Here are a few different ways to solve this problem. First, take your barrel and fill with hot water – remember, these barrels may have been sitting outside drying up for quite a while. Once you’ve filled it up, keep water in it for the next couple of days. It should allow the oak to soak some of the water and naturally seal itself.
Another way to resolve leaking is if after you’ve tried keeping water in it and the barrel still leaks, use barrel sealing wax and while it’s full and leaking, take the wax and press it in to the crack or cracks that are leaking. Some folks will mark where the leak is, empty the barrel and proceed to heat the area and then press the wax in as tight as they can. You can use paraffin or bees wax.
Still a third way is to purchase a pond liner. They are heavy-duty rubber liners that you can press into the barrel and then cut the excess. I’ve not done this but have used pond liners in the past for a small waterfall and they last forever and are tougher than Kelsey’s nuts. Yes, this operation requires you removing the top of the barrel. Do this by removing the bands from that end of the barrel. The staves will pull apart a little bit and you can then remove the head. Be very careful not to let the barrel fall apart. It can get ugly.
A last thought. These rain barrels don’t have to be eyesores or not meshing with the rest of the house and/or outdoor area. If you sanded, stained and sealed the barrel and then put a nice varnish on the outside, it would last much longer … indeed, they might never dry out. Plus, it would look great! Hmmm, I might know someone who does that – click on that barrel at the bottom of the page.
If you research rain barrels at all, you’ll find an endless amount of information and products. If you want to stay natural, a wine barrel is the best way to go and what the heck, they look cool too. Consider the idea of decorating the used wine barrel – bring out your inner artist. Or again, make it easy on yourself and purchase a Decorative Wine Barrel. One last item you might forget is a bung – don’t want to lose half your water. If you missed it, I just wrote about a beautiful high tech bung plug now available.
As always, if you have a question, feel free to ask below, email me, give us a call, message me or the forty other ways people can contact me in this ever advanced modern era.
Now don’t dally, get yourself a wine barrel and rainwater harvesting system and make your garden happy, plus maybe you’ll save a buck or two along the way.
“Let the rain wash away, all the pain of yesterday.”
Daryle W. Hier